At the beginning of 2013, Ryan Anderson, power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans, and reality-TV star Gia Allemand were living out the perfect romance. At least that’s the way it looked to those who saw their photos in magazines and on celebrity news sites.
But those who only saw the glamorous images didn’t know the true story. They didn’t know that Allemand struggled with depression. And they were shocked when, in April, she committed suicide.
Though Anderson knew about the ups and downs in Allemand’s life, he, of course was shocked, as well. And he was devastated by grief. What has helped lift him out of his grief are those who are able to offer him silence, who let him share in the silence . . . or fill it up with his own words.
[To see why a blog about cross-cultural issues is interested in the topics of grief and listening, go here.]
In a video by the non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms, Anderson tells how the day Allemand died he turned to his coach, Monty Williams, for help. Williams pulled him away from Allemand’s condo and rode with him in a car:
He didn’t say anything. He just sat there with me. And I . . . there’s nothing more he could have done. . . . He stayed up the entire night. I remember . . . I just leaned down, I leaned on his shoulder and I just cried the whole night, and he just sat there, you know, and he was just there with me.
For Anderson, an important part of the healing process has been therapy, but it took a lot of convincing to get him there. And before he became comfortable with his therapist, he thought the sessions were pointless, because he wasn’t getting “the right advice.” But then he realized that getting advice wasn’t the point of his therapy:
The most important thing is you pouring yourself out to somebody. That’s what it was about for me. It was about talking to this guy and letting everything in . . . that’s going on in my mind and in my heart and everything out.
Looking back, he says about therapy, about talking openly to a good listener, “I can’t describe to you how valuable it was.”
To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), the organization that produced this video of Anderson’s story, makes it their work to connect those who are struggling—with depression, addiction, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and anxiety—with the help they need.
Lauren Gloyne, intern program director and benefit coordinator for TWLOHA, writes her perspective on the group’s work on their Tumblr blog. She quotes lines from the song “Flags,” written by New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser, sharing her thoughts inspired by the words:
Come, tell me your trouble
I’m not your answer
But I’m a listening ear
Maybe it’s not about having all the answers. Maybe it’s about taking someone by the hand and sharing in their honesty. Meeting them in their pain. Lending our ears. Getting in the trenches with them and saying, “I don’t know why this is. But I’m with you. Let’s walk through this uncertainty together.
Reality has left you reeling
All facts and no feeling
No faith and all fear
. . . . . .
You who mourn will be comforted
You who hunger will hunger no more
All the last shall be first, of this I am sure
You who weep now will laugh again
All you lonely, be lonely no more
Yes, the last will be first, of this I am sure
[photo: “A Drop of Silence,” by Thanh Mai Bui Duy, used under a Creative Commons license]